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May 28, 2013
May 28, 2013

Are we really doing better?

Author: Giorgis Katrougalos* Translator: Elsa Nicolaou
Source: Enet  Category: On the crisis
This article is also available in: esel
Are we really doing better?

Nietzsche, interpreting the familiar myth, reports that Zeus left hope in Pandora’s box not out of pity, but of malice, because hope for nothing and mostly without a decision for action is not a gift but a curse. “Such hope,” the philosopher says in the «Menschliches, Allzumenschliches» “is the worst kind, because it prolongs the endless torment of man.”

The government is trying to cultivate a very similar atmosphere of fake optimism and surrender, taking advantage of the latest reports of the troika, the IMF and certain European officials. Is there indeed a momentum as government mouthpieces try to convince us? Daily life sends other messages; continuity of crisis and recession and increasing unemployment. But could it be we do not to see the change in everyday life, while this is in fact already underway?

Unfortunately this is not the case. And this is what is demonstrated in the famous statements and reports that are supposed to maintain this communicative attack of optimism. The announcements, for example, of the head of the Eurogroup, Mr. Dijsselbloem, regarding a new “haircut” of the debt in 2014, are actually a confession that the debt is unsustainable, despite the celebrations that the implementation of the Memorandum is now “in the right track.” The numbers are, after all, inexorable: 120% of GDP, which was the debt before the country’s resort to the mechanisms’ ‘salvation’ has already jumped to 170%. Moreover, if the haircut is carried out as dictated by our lenders, similarly to PSI, it will basically load a new weight, instead of lighten the Greek economy.

As for the positive elements, which are recognized by the recent reports, they need to be interpreted: they gloat that the loss of our competitiveness in relation to the Eurozone has already been reduced by two-thirds, as far as wage cost is concerned. In plain Greek this means that we must celebrate that our wages have been reduced, but not to rejoice too much, because a further reduction is due in order for us to cover the remaining third of our lost competitiveness.
The reduction of the budget deficit (unprecedented in the annals, according to the Minister of Finance) and the existence of primary surplus hide huge deficits of insurance funds (they have reached three billion Euros) on the one hand and also and most importantly the fact that this “achievement” is not due to increased revenues from the fight against tax evasion – which is the main reason of swelling deficits – but due to cuts in wages, pensions and to the dismantling of the infrastructure of the welfare state.

But most importantly, it is not whether the celebrated recovery comes in 2014, which, is anything but certain, if one considers the constant failure of similar objectives(in the first Memorandum, be reminded, it was claimed that in 2013 we would have already returned to markets). The issue is mainly who will benefit from it and what kind of recovery are we talking about. If we let the government complete its work, we already know the answer. The distilled neoliberalism applied heralds sluggish recovery, based on Bulgarian wages and unemployment rates of over 20% while breaking off not only of workers’ rights but also any other arrangement of organised social coexistence. The announced market liberalization measures, such as the opening of shops on Sundays, heralds, for example, the end of small shops. It has already been noted in the troika texts that in our country the proportion of self-employed is 36%, while the average in the Eurozone is only 11%. Things like that are what similar measures aim to “correct”.

Of course, none of this is deterministically definite. Right now all across Europe what is at stake is if the neoliberal austerity policies continue or are to be replaced by a new development recipe, of social quality. The day before yesterday protests in Portugal showed the way. Hope ceases to be a curse, when it triggers resistance and action.

* Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Thrace

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